River clean up will celebrate World Rivers Day in Cowichan

Rodger Hunter, Cowichan Valley Citizen, September 24, 2010

In 2005 the United Nations declared 2005 to 2015 to be the Water for Life Decade.

Among other things, the Water for Life initiative is intended to encourage better stewardship of the world's water resources. As part of that initiative the UN designated the fourth Sunday in September as World Rivers Day.

A special thing about World Rivers Day is that it is rooted in B.C. It began in September 1980 when BCIT's Mark Angelo and 40 others spent the day cleaning up the Thompson River. That evening at a hotel in Lytton, they committed to continuing their efforts the next year. By 1993 there were Rivers Day events throughout B.C. and the fourth Sunday of September was officially designated BC Rivers day.

Interestingly, in 1992 the federal government had designated the second Sunday in June as Canadian Rivers Day to align with Environment Day which occurs earlier in the month. In 2003 Angelo and a network of river enthusiasts began lobbying the UN to declare the fourth Sunday in September to be World Rivers Day. The rest is history. For the past year Angelo has been Chair of the Rivers Institute at BCIT. He is also the World Rivers Day Chair.

The year 1993 was also important for B.C.'s rivers because the province established a blue ribbon committee including, among others, Mark Angelo and the Honourable David Anderson (now a member of the Cowichan Watershed Board) to explore whether B.C. should join the Canadian Heritage River System.

The committee noted that B.C.'s rivers were undervalued and called for action.

As a result the province designated the Adams, Babine, Blackwater, Cowichan, Fraser, Skagit and Stikine as B.C.'s inaugural heritage rivers. A decade later, in 2005, the Cowichan was designated as a Canadian Heritage River joining the Fraser and Kickinghorse as B.C. rivers with national heritage status. A plaque commemorating the Cowichan's Canadian Heritage River status is located near the river at the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre.

As a heritage river it was envisioned that the Cowichan would be "A model of watershed cooperation among a wide variety of stakeholders...". Cowichan watershed exemplifies that vision.

It is considered to be the provincial leader in cooperative watershed management because of the strong relationships and commitment to stewardship that exists here. The Cowichan Watershed Board, Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Committee, Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, the Quamichan Stewards and the Community Land Trust represent a handful of the numerous positive forces working for healthy, prosperous watersheds.

Our watershed is large. There is much to care about and care for. This month the focus is on river clean up. Gerald Thom and the Cowichan Lake stewardship group recently lead a successful clean up day from the lake down to Skutz Falls. This Sunday, on World Rivers Day, Don Barrie (tourismcowichan@shaw.ca) is leading a clean up between Skutz Falls and Marie Canyon. Shore support workers are needed. Interested volunteers should meet at Riverbottom Road and Mayo at 10 a.m. Please bring gloves and good foot wear. The clean up will be followed by a barbecue and prizes at the Warm Rapids Inn.

Please don't wait until Canadian Rivers Day in June to celebrate our watershed again. A healthy watershed is vital to our health. Embrace each day as Rivers Day.

© Cowichan Valley Citizen 2010